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Transformative leadership: Motivate & impact others

Every organization or society has a form of leadership. And it is responsible for ensuring that every member comes together to achieve a common goal. When we say leadership, we inevitably refer to leaders whose job is to lead & improve their community. Interestingly, leaders exhibit different personality traits and have different leadership styles… like transformative motivation for instance.

There are different types of leaders and various styles of leadership in the world today. You might have encountered different styles of leadership at different stages in your career. Or, you might’ve used some yourself while leading teams or projects.

Some styles of leadership may delegate responsibilities and carry every team member along. Others tend to implement policies and regulations. However, In this article, we will discuss the transformative style of leadership as a model to motivate and impact others.

Defining Transformative Leadership

Transformative leadership is a style of leadership in which leaders employ motivation and encouragement as tools to inspire members of their team… to create positive changes and develop innovative ideas that are instrumental to the growth of the organization. A transformative leader trusts in the team members and grants them autonomy which makes them creative.

The success of any organization that has a transformative leader relies on the morale and self-confidence of every team member. Transformative leaders state the objectives of the organization clearly. Then, they stir up the will of their team members to achieve those set objectives without coercion.

The idea of transformative leadership was originally coined by James V. Downtown, a sociologist, in the year 1973. However, this idea was further developed by a leadership expert named James MacGregor Burns. He wrote extensively about the transformative style of leadership in his book titled “Leadership“, in the year 1978. 

In 1985, Bernard Morris Bass, a scholar in the field of leadership studies was inspired by Burns’ work. Then, he further developed the concept of transformative leadership in his book titled… “Leadership and performance beyond expectations“. In his book, Bass discussed the characteristics displayed by transformative leaders including integrity, fairness, provision of support, encouragement, etc. 

Although these concepts of transformative leadership date as far back as the 70s! They are 

still very relevant and are practiced in today’s world.

Core Components of Transformative Leadership

According to Bass, there are four major components/elements of transformative leadership, also known as the “four I’s”. These components include intellectual stimulation, individual consideration, idealized influence, and inspirational motivation. 

We will discuss them in detail below!

Intellectual Stimulation

As its name implies, this component of transformative leadership encourages team members to think critically and be innovative. Stimulating the intellectual capacities of team members would improve their thinking & problem-solving skills. Thus, it will enable them to come up with creative ideas that ensure the growth of the organization. Also, it encourages independent thinking and makes everyone feel involved because their opinion is sought.

Through intellectual stimulation, transformative leaders challenge their team members to come up with outside-the-box ideas & creative solutions. However, transformative leaders ensure they don’t criticize or shut down their team members to prevent distrust and withdrawal.

Individual Consideration

Every team is made up of individual members who have personal needs which might influence their performance. Therefore, individual consideration refers to the way and extent to which a leader attends to the needs of team members. By attending to the needs of the team individuals, transformative leadership ensures that everyone is at their best performance. This promotes better performance, work satisfaction, and growth.

In transformational leadership, leaders recognize the unique ability of individual team members and try to develop their skills through training. Also, individual consideration makes every member of the team feel valued and keen on the growth of the organization. It also helps leaders build a bond of trust and connect with their team members.

Idealized Influence

This describes the values that leaders possess and label them as worthy role models for others. Transformative leaders act out their expectations and actions for others. And this earns them the trust and respect of the team. A good example of such characteristics that leaders can demonstrate to earn their team’s respect is charisma.

Transformative leaders have to be charismatic to influence their team members to work together on a common goal. Charismatic leaders do not have to coerce their team members into doing anything. That’s because the influence charismatic leaders have on their followers stems from mutual respect.

Inspirational Motivation

In transformational leadership, motivation, encouragement, and inspiration are very important in achieving set goals. Inspirational motivation is an important component of transformative leadership. It describes the way leaders make their team members commit willingly to achieving a particular objective. Through inspirational motivation, leaders can build team spirit and encourage team members to put in their best.

To achieve inspirational motivation, there must be simple yet effective communication. To help team members understand the set goals clearly, transformative leaders communicate their expectations early from the beginning to avoid confusion. Simple communication that clearly articulates the leader’s expectations inspires team members to put in their best efforts. 

Effects of Transformative Leadership

There are various styles of leadership and they have effects on the organizations in which they are used. These effects might be positive or negative. The following are the effects of transformative leadership:

  • According to Piccolo and Colquitt, 2006, employees who work with transformative leaders… love their jobs, are more empowered psychologically, and show a higher level of commitment to their work.
  • Transformative leadership helps to upgrade the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization.
  • Team members led by a transformative leader have higher levels of performance than those under another style of leadership.
  • Transformational leadership leads to a decrease in burnout, social loafing, and an increase in individual motivation.
  • By stimulating the enthusiasm of team members, transformative leadership enhances service quality, according to Liao H. and Chuang A. (2007).
  • Transformative leadership can increase the financial performance of an organization.
  • According to Grant, 2012, team members might sometimes find it difficult to connect the leader’s goals with their work circumstances.

These and many more are the results that may be seen in organizations that apply the transformative style of leadership.

Real-Life Examples

In our world today, there are some real-life examples of transformative leaders and companies that have a transformative style of leadership. Examples of transformative leaders in today’s world include:

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is South Africa’s first democratically elected black president from the year 1994 to 1999. He was born in 1918 and was an activist against racism (apartheid) for most of his life before he became president. Also, he was a symbol of the anti-racist movement in South Africa and he gave inspirational motivation to a lot of the South. He is a perfect example of a real-life transformative leader.

Jeff Bezos 

Jeff Bezos is a very famous example of a transformative leader and he is one of the richest men in the world. He is the CEO of Amazon and the creator of the world’s first online bookstore, Kindle in the year 1994. Today, Bezos does not only sell digital books, he owns the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is an American female media director, talk show host, actress, television producer, and philanthropist. She was the host of ” The Oprah Winfrey Show”, the highest-rated TV show in history! That aired from 1986 to 2011. She is North America’s first black multi-billionaire and was one of the richest women in the 20th century. She is a charismatic woman with excellent communication skills and she is a very good example of a transformative leader. 

Bill Gates

Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world. Born in 1955, Bill Gates is an American businessman, founder, CEO of Microsoft, and philanthropist. Together with his ex-wife, Melinda, he founded the largest charity organization in the world. It strives to eradicate diseases such as polio, tuberculosis, and malaria, and reduce poverty. He employs a transformative style of leadership which makes him a worthy real-life example. 

Barack Obama

Barack Obama is an American politician and was the 44th president of the United States…and the first African-American to hold that office. He was born in 1961 to an American mother and Kenyan father. Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize which in itself a great source of inspiration for others. Barack Obama is a transformative leader and the people around him can attest to his style of leadership.

Qualities of Transformative Leaders

The qualities of transformative leaders are the characteristics and hallmarks that separate them from other styles of leadership. These include:

Trust in team members

Transformative leaders believe in the individual abilities of every team member. Therefore, they provide their team members with the necessary training they need. Transformational leaders trust their team to come up with a tangible solution to every problem. Thus, they are granted a considerable amount of autonomy. 

Ability to inspire

Since transformative leadership uses motivation and encouragement as tools to inspire change. A transformative leader knows exactly how to inspire team members to take action. Every opinion is valued. Therefore, team members are inspired to participate in tasks that involve the growth of the organization.

Ability to take intelligent risks 

Sometimes, particular risks need to be taken to achieve a goal. A transformative leader is not scared to take calculated risks when necessary. In transformational leadership, the risk-to-reward ratio is always measured to be certain before pursuing an idea.

Effective communication skills 

Transformative leaders do not only try to make team members work together to achieve a common goal. They also listen to feedback from their team members. Transformative leaders are approachable and they reason with their team to make them feel valuable, involved, and respected.

Ability to accept responsibility

Transformative leaders do not play blame games. If an idea fails, transformative leaders take full responsibility regardless of whose idea it was originally. Then, they come up with better ideas and solutions to compensate for the situation.

Ability to make difficult decisions

Transformative leaders might have to challenge the status quo and make tough decisions for the benefit of the organization. They must be brave and make the decisions that no one would make except for them.

Open-mindedness 

Transformative leaders are always open to new ideas no matter how ridiculous they may sound. They are slow to discard fresh perspectives because they do not jump to conclusions. Moreover, they offer a free space for creativity and innovative thinking.

Proactivity

Transformative leaders are always proactive. They do not wait for change to happen by sitting around, they make it happen. They make decisions and stick with them, causing other team members to get involved.

Tips to Achieve Transformative leadership

If you are trying to achieve transformative leadership, the following are tips that can help you achieve that style of leadership that you desire.

Pose a challenge

To get your team members interested in achieving a set goal, you have to captivate them first. This can be done by creating an attractive and challenging vision together with your team members. Your team is more likely to be interested in working towards a common goal when they are involved. You can achieve transformative leadership by carrying your team members along on every plan.

Be a role model

Idealized influence is one of the key components of transformative leadership. To become a transformative leader, you must become a role model to the rest of the team. You must always act in a manner that would earn you the respect of team members. You must develop charisma and appeal to their sense of admiration. When you pride yourself on values and high moral standards, you will earn their respect & trust. At the same time, you will be an inspiring role model to them.

Be passionate

Passion cannot be hidden, therefore, you must develop a passion for what you do. If, as a leader, you do not genuinely care about achieving set goals, your team would care even less. When your team members know how passionate you are about the growth of the organization! They will strive to put in their best as they would hate to disappoint you.

Develop effective communication and listening skills

Everybody likes to be heard and know that they are important. To achieve transformative leadership, you have to develop effective communication and listening skills. Have a personal relationship with individual team members where you show genuine concern and express yourself clearly. It is not enough to communicate your expectations, you should also have a listening ear to register the complaints and feedback of your team members.  

Demonstrate trust

It is not enough to trust your team members, you should also let them know that you trust them. To demonstrate trust, you can ask for their opinions and issues. Then you can delegate tasks to them, and grant them autonomy. This will make them more invested in the growth of the organization. It will also deepen the level of trust between you as a leader and them as a team.

Show resilience

It is normal to encounter setbacks. However, you must not let them wear you down or frustrate you visibly. When things do not go according to plan and you are visibly downcast. This can have negative effects on the morale of other team members. Let your team members know what has gone wrong and how it has affected the growth of the organization. 

Final thoughts

Transformative leadership, even with its shortcomings, is one of the best leadership styles to employ for positive performance in an organization. It also improves the well-being of team members themselves. In transformational leadership, leaders motivate their team members to tap into their inner creativity and bring innovative ideas. To achieve the transformative style of leadership, you have to assess your current leadership style and make corrections where necessary.

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